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Polk County couple arrested for stealing thousands from youth baseball league

Posted at 9:59 AM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 09:59:49-04

A Polk County couple was arrested after authorities say they stole thousands of dollars from a local youth baseball league.

45-year-old James "Jamie" Wetherington and 36-year-old Elizabeth Wetherington, both of Mulberry, were arrested Thursday and charged with Scheme to Defraud, Fraudulent use of Credit Card and Grand Theft.

During the transition from the former league president (Wetherington) to the current league president, suspicious transactions on the previous Mulberry Dixie Youth Baseball bank account were discovered, deputies say. The new president requested a CPA to conduct a forensic audit of the previous account.

Detectives learned that Wetherington would not give the new president access to the Midflorida bank account and chose to close the account and give the new president two checks from the money left in the savings and checking account.

Wetherington told the new president to open up a new bank account.

The investigation revealed that James Wetherington was the president of the Mulberry Dixie Youth Baseball League (MDYB) between August 2017 and June 2019.

When he took over the league, another volunteer was on the Midflorida bank account as the treasurer. In May of 2018, the volunteer treasurer said she
had issues with the way Wetherington treated her, including being very argumentative and that he made excuses when asked about providing receipts for his transactions. The volunteer decided to remove herself from the league.

Wetherington then added his wife, Elizabeth Wetherington to the account and appointed her as Vice President and Treasurer to the league. This violated the bylaws of the league since a third authorized signer on the account was required, investigators say.

The season was actually cancelled for a few months at one point while current members tried to vote Wetherington off the board due to conflicts they were having with him. These on-going incidents caused the parents to remove their children from the league and enroll them into other baseball leagues.

Attempts were made to restart the league for the spring of 2019, but James Wetherington ultimately announced on social media that he cancelled the spring league. Parents requested their money back and they were slowly reimbursed.

During the time the spring league was cancelled, James and Elizabeth Wetherington were allegedly using the league's bank cards.

They purchased items on Amazon, Home Depot, restaurants, and at different gas stations, the investigation found.

Detectives determined after interviews with all the board members who were active while James was President, there were $7,984.72 in fraudulent transactions.

The investigation determined that the money was spent for personal gain and did not benefit the league in any way.

"It boggles my mind that people like this steal money from children," Sheriff Grady Judd said. "It's shameful. Unfortunately, we see this kind of fraud too often--people entrust volunteers to manage these sports leagues ethically and legally. But sometimes they don't. The Wetherington's violated the trust of children and parents and the violated the law. We strongly encourage these organizations to be transparent and open regarding expenditures, and keep and enforce strong safeguards regarding spending."